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Frequently Asked Questions


1. Is hydrogen more dangerous than gasoline?
2. Is burning hydrogen like the hydrogen bomb?
3. Did hydrogen cause the Hindenburg to burn?
4. How much does hydrogen cost?
5. When will I be able to buy a hydrogen car?
6. How does a fuel cell work?
7. Won’t petroleum companies fight the introduction of hydrogen as a fuel?

8. What will happen to all the water put into the air?  Will the climate be changed?
9. What is the difference between HYDROGEN and HYDROZINE? We used HYDROZINE for fuel cells in 1965 at Allis-Chalmers.
10. What is the difference between hydrogen combustion, and fuel cell technology? Are they the same thing? It is very hard to find information on hydrogen combustion, but relatively easy to learn about fuel cells.
11. How was hydrogen named?
12. How can I convert my car to run on hydrogen?
13. I'm a 15 year old student who needs information about HYDROGEN. I'm confused! I read a lot of things on your website but I don't really get it. Can you please simply help me explain the: History , Properties and uses of it?
14. For each positive there's a negative. What's hydrogen's? I think that Hydrogen has the possibility of being far safer and more superior than both nuclear - and fossil fuel - but so far all I've heard is all the rosy news about Hydrogen - and that makes me suspicious.
15. At what temperature does hydrogen liquefy?
16. Is there any way to invest in this industry at the moment?
17. It seems that using salt water, as it is in most oceans, would be a viable source of hydrogen. Is this true?
18. Is not hydrogen a carrier of energy, such as electricity? Does it not take more energy to produce hydrogen than is realized?
19. Is the storage of hydrogen efficient, space wise?
20. How does it relate to gasoline or diesel storage?
21. Is it practical for automobiles to have such a huge storage tank?
22. How many protons and neutrons does hydrogen have?

1. Is hydrogen more dangerous than gasoline?  

Since any fuel we use is flammable, it is inherently dangerous. Hydrogen is often used as a gaseous fuel, which makes it similar to natural gas and town gas, which have been used in America, Europe, and Asia for heating and lighting for almost two centuries. One difference is that hydrogen is nontoxic, so it’s not harmful to breathe. It’s also so light that it scatters immediately upward when there is a leak, rather than pooling about, polluting groundwater, and soaking into clothes. The end assessment is that when hydrogen is handled with care appropriate to any gaseous fuel, it is safer than fuels in standard use.

2. Is burning hydrogen like the hydrogen bomb?  

No. Burning hydrogen, just like burning gasoline, natural gas, or a candle, is a chemical reaction, which means that only the electrons get shifted around and new compounds are made, like water, but the basic atoms are the same. In a nuclear reaction, the actual nucleus of the atom (the protons and neutrons) is changed.

3. Did hydrogen cause the Hindenburg to burn?  

No. It turns out that the coating of the Hindenburg airship was treated with two major components of rocket fuel, aluminum and iron oxide. When the airship was docking in 1937, an electrical discharge ignited the skin, and the fire raced over the surface of the airship. In fact, 35 of the 37 people who died, perished from jumping or falling to the ground. Only two of the victims died of burns, and these were from the burning coating and on-board diesel. The hydrogen burned quickly, upward and away from the people.

4. How much does hydrogen cost?  

It depends on how you make it. Until recently, the most inexpensive production method was using steam reformation of natural gas (heating methane under high pressure with a catalyst in a steam atmosphere).   When the cost of natural gas was about $2 per MMBtu (Million Btu) hydrogen was produced for as little as US $0.96 per kilogram, at the production plant.  In 2005, the cost of natural gas rose above $13 per MMBtu, with the cost of hydrogen rising proportionally.  Other methods, such as electrically breaking water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen (electrolysis), chemical reactions, and biomass digestion vary in their prices.  Hydrogen produced from wind farm electricity is now the cheapest way to produce hydrogen.  There are many ways to produce hydrogen, and they will become more competitive in the future.  See the California Fuel Cell Partnership map for hydrogen fueling stations in California.

5. When will I be able to buy a hydrogen car?  

Some HICE (Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles are available today.  Fuel cell vehicles will be available later.  

Below is a timeline for hydrogen automobile availability, based on announcements by the manufacturers.

Manufacturer

Details Available for Fleets Available to Public
BMW BMW announced on February 20, 2006 that they will sell a dual fuel (hydrogen or gasoline at the flip of a switch) version of its 7 series model within two years.  News article February 2008 February 2008
Daimler-Chrysler Daimler-Chrysler claims to have the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in operation at over 100.  News article. Not announced Not announced
Ford   Not announced Not announced
GM Hydrogen only fuel cell:  News article. 2010-2015 2010-2015
H2Logic ApS This "H2 Truck" is a small, 3-wheel vehicle used for warehouse, airport luggage hauling, hospitals and ports.  The package for sale includes an electrolyzer for producing hydrogen. News article. Now Not for public use
Honda Hydrogen only fuel cell:  News article. 2008-2010 2008-2010
Hydrogen Labs Hydrogen Labs modifies Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles for resale to police fleets.  News article. Now Not announced
Hyundai   Not announced Not announced
Mazda Mazda started leasing a limited number of the RX-8 Hydrogen RE (dual fuel) model in Japan in February 2006:  News article.  Mass production will begin around October 2008:  News article. February 2006 in Japan only. October 2008
Nissan   Not announced Not announced
Peugeot Hydrogen only fuel cell:  News article. After 2010 After 2010
Quantum Quantum modifies Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles to run on pure hydrogen. Now.  They will sell to any fleet customer with a minimum order of 5 vehicles. Not announced
Toyota   Not announced Not announced
Volkswagen   Not announced Not announced

6. How does a fuel cell work?  

A fuel cell is fed hydrogen and air and puts out electricity, heat, and water. The hydrogen gas going in gets split into separate protons and electrons by a catalyst, and the protons travel through a membrane that doesn’t let the electrons through. The electrons must find another way, such as through a wire that is provided. The electrons traveling through the wire to meet up with the protons make an electrical current, which does work. On the other side of the membrane, the hydrogen protons and electrons are reunited in the presence of atmospheric air (a source of oxygen), which produces only heat and pure water in the exhaust. An excellent animated graphic of an operating fuel cell can be found at: http://www.humboldt.edu/~serc/animation.html.

7. Won’t petroleum companies fight the introduction of hydrogen as a fuel?  

Some of them have indeed fought the move to hydrogen. Lee R. Raymond, CEO of ExxonMobil, did not want his company involved with developing hydrogen as an alternative fuel. However, many visionary companies, such as Shell, BP and ChevronTexaco, see the remarkable possibilities of hydrogen as a clean fuel, and embrace the business opportunities that go along with the evolution to the hydrogen economy. As such, those “petroleum companies” are becoming “energy companies.”

8. What will happen to all the water put into the air?  Will the climate be changed?

The amount of water put into the air from hydrogen combustion won't even be detected by your local meteorologist, when checking the moisture content of the air. Consider that all internal combustion engines that burn fossil fuels, such as gasoline, diesel or natural gas, produce water vapor that vents into the air. Changing engines to pure hydrogen will produce about the same amount of water vapor, while eliminating all of the carbon and sulfur emissions.
Hydrogen Now supports using renewable energy to produce hydrogen, via the process of electrolysis, where water is separated into its two basic components: hydrogen and oxygen. When hydrogen is burned in an engine, or used in a fuel cell, the end product is water. The net result of the complete circle is that there is no more or no less water in the environment than at the beginning of the cycle.
Some other points of interest:
1) When gasoline, diesel or natural gas is burned, water vapor is produced. Burning hydrogen instead of these fuels will emit about the same amount of water vapor.
2) The amount of water emitted by automobiles using hydrogen is so insignificant that it will have no effect on weather.
3) Burning hydrogen instead of fossil fuels will clean the air.
4) Each gallon of gasoline requires 18 gallons of water during the refining process. Much of this water is vented to the atmosphere as steam.
5) Burning fossil fuels add sulfur oxides (resulting in acid rain), nitrogen oxides, soot and other pollutants which greatly affect weather throughout the world. Burning hydrogen produces none of the same pollutants, except minor amounts of nitrogen oxides, which can be controlled by modifying the engines properly.

9. What is the difference between HYDROGEN and HYDROZINE? We used HYDROZINE for fuel cells in 1965 at Allis-Chalmers.

Hydrogen is the most basic element in the universe, consisting of only one proton and one electron. It's chemical symbol is H. When combined with oxygen, it produces water.
Hydrazine (N2H4) is commonly used as a liquid rocket fuel. Allis-Chalmers developed a fuel cell in 1964 using hydrazine-oxygen for a one-man submarine tested by the Electric Boat Company. The reference is at this web page: http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/FuelCellToday/FCTFiles/FCTArticleFiles/Article_567_NicheTransport0303.pdf.
According to NASA, hydrazine is "costly, corrosive and hazardous". NASA currently uses hydrazine in the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) of the space shuttle. However, due to its toxicity, it is scheduled to be replaced by a better battery system. Other fuel cells on the space shuttle use pure hydrogen.

10. What is the difference between hydrogen combustion, and fuel cell technology? Are they the same thing? It is very hard to find information on hydrogen combustion, but relatively easy to learn about fuel cells.

Combustion simply means "burning". When you burn hydrogen in the presence of oxygen, you produce heat and water. One example of combustion is the burning of hydrogen (or gasoline or diesel or natural gas or propane) inside an internal combustion engine of a car. Striking a match, burning a piece of paper or lighting a fire in a fireplace produces combustion.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical reaction to produce electricity, heat and water.

11. How was hydrogen named?

Hydrogen was named by Antoine Lavoisier in 1783. A Frenchman, he called it hydrogène, naming it after the Greek words hydor and gennan (or geinomai) roughly translated as "water generating" or "water forming". You can read the full story at http://www.vanderkrogt.net/elements/elem/h.html.

12. How can I convert my car to run on hydrogen?

Congratulations on your decision to convert your car to hydrogen. You are to be commended for your efforts to clean the air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

As a starting point, take a look at our Automobile page.

13. I'm a 15 year old student who needs information about HYDROGEN. I'm confused! I read a lot of things on your website but I don't really get it. Can you please simply help me explain the: History , Properties and uses of it?

I would suggest that you read the book The Phoenix Project, by Harry Braun. You can order it from http://www.phoenixproject.net, or from online booksellers, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

14. For each positive there's a negative. What's hydrogen's? I think that Hydrogen has the possibility of being far safer and more superior than both nuclear - and fossil fuel - but so far all I've heard is all the rosy news about Hydrogen - and that makes me suspicious.

It is rather difficult to come up with any substantial negatives, but there are some challenges ahead.

a) Storage. Since hydrogen is so light, it is difficult to store a lot of it in a small tank. However, Dynetek Industries (among other companies) is currently testing a 12,500 psi tank for gaseous hydrogen. Both Ford and GM are working with 10,000 psi tanks in their prototypes (Ford's Model U and GM's Hy-Wire).

b) Distribution. There is not a widespread distribution channel for getting hydrogen to the masses. A new infrastructure will need to be put in place. It will take a lot of capital to build this infrastructure.

c) Cost. Hydrogen is currently much more expensive than gasoline --- primarily due to the massive tax breaks that are given to the oil companies. However, as we saw in 2005 and 2006, gasoline and other petroleum products will become more and more expensive as we approach peak oil.  Simultaneously, new technologies will allow the cost of hydrogen continue to decline in price.

d) Danger of hydrogen. Like any other combustible gas or liquid, hydrogen is flammable, and even explosive under certain conditions. However, hydrogen has a long history of safety; and the technology and practices to keep it safe are already in place. Many experts think that hydrogen is safer than any of the fossil fuels.

e) Fuel cell challenges. Fuel cells are currently too expensive. Many of them also have problems running in very cold weather; although the manufacturers are working to overcome problems with cold weather. The biggest challenge in the long term for fuel cells may be that there is not enough copper in the world to produce all of the electric motors that are going to be required for fuel cells. Aluminum can be substituted, although it will take up more space in a motor than copper will. We believe scientists will come up with new motors that do not require so much copper, or that may use materials we haven't even considered yet.

15. At what temperature does hydrogen liquefy?

Hydrogen becomes liquid at -423 F.

16. Is there any way to invest in this industry at the moment?

Yes, you can get a lot of information at the following web site: http://www.h2fc.com/defaultIE4.html.

17. It seems that using salt water, as it is in most oceans, would be a viable source of hydrogen. Is this true?

All commercial electrolyzers require fairly pure water, usually as pure as potable water. Some of them require deionized water. Commercial electrolyzers that will accept standard potable water have additional filtering systems built in. The cleaner the water is that enters the system, the less frequently filters will have to be changed.

The only way seawater can be used is if it is distilled first.  Commercial electrolyzers use electrolytes that are designed to provide the most efficient operation possible.  You would not want to mix it with salt water.

Many of the commercial electrolyzers use a PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane - the same type used in fuel cells). If the water is not deionized, it would quickly clog up the system.

18. Is not hydrogen a carrier of energy, such as electricity? Does it not take more energy to produce hydrogen than is realized?

Yes, hydrogen is an energy carrier. It is not energy itself, but requires energy to produce it. Hydrogen Now! promotes the use of renewable energy to produce hydrogen. Since renewable energy, such as wind, is inexhaustible, we will never run out of the ability to produce all the hydrogen we need. The only costs are installation of wind turbines, the equipment for electrolysis and transportation. The same applies to solar and geothermal resources. It does take energy to produce hydrogen. However, it also takes energy to produce gasoline, including drilling, pumping, storing, refining and transportation. A better way is to produce hydrogen from renewable energy, totally eliminating the dirty pollution of the oil refinery process.

19. Is the storage of hydrogen efficient, space wise?

Hydrogen does occupy more space than any other fuel, whether it be in gaseous or liquid state. However, new tanks are providing for more storage of compressed hydrogen gas. The U.S. government recently certified 5,000 psi hydrogen tanks for use in automobiles. The German government has certified 10,000 psi tanks; and the U.S. is soon to follow. Dynetek Industries has also developed a 12,500 psi tank that should be certified within the next two years. BMW uses liquid hydrogen, which provides more hydrogen per volume than gaseous hydrogen, but is more expensive to produce. Liquid hydrogen tanks also require venting of the gas as it warms in the tank. BMW claims that their tanks will not require any venting for up to one week.

20. How does it relate to gasoline or diesel storage?

Hydrogen has more energy per weight, but less energy per volume than any other fuel. One kilogram of hydrogen has approximately the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasoline. Hydrogen is ideal for use in jet airplanes because it is so light. Jet airplanes that use hydrogen require larger fuel tanks, but, because hydrogen is so light, the wings can be smaller, the engines less powerful and the number of passengers can be increased. Note that if the airplanes that had hit the WTC towers in New York had been carrying hydrogen, instead of jet fuel, the towers would still be standing today. The fire from hydrogen would have been over in a matter of seconds, meaning that there would not have been enough prolonged heat to melt the steel girders. Airbus is currently manufacturing a new plane to run on hydrogen, called the "Cryoplane". The Russian airline, Aeroflot, is also working on a hydrogen airplane for commercial passenger travel.

21. Is it practical for automobiles to have such a huge storage tank?

Hydrogen tanks do require more space than gasoline tanks. However, they are much safer. Similar tanks have been used in natural gas vehicles for years. They can withstand armor-piercing bullets and dynamite, with no explosion or leaks. A hydrogen tank behind the passenger compartment actually makes the entire car safer from rear-end collisions. So, I would say it is much more practical than a gasoline tank, which will rupture, causing the gasoline to ignite, and frequently, explode. A gasoline fire in an automobile can engulf the passenger compartment, burning passengers to death. Gasoline wicks to the skin when spilled on a person. If hydrogen is spilled, it disperses quickly into the atmosphere. There is no radiant heat from burning hydrogen, so a hydrogen flame will not burn skin unless the body is put directly into the middle of the flame.

22. How many protons and neutrons does hydrogen have?

1 proton
1 electron
0 neutrons

 

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